“How do you know when you need to leave an organization because of a values mis-match from the C-level, even if you are a leader who enjoys the department you lead and your client interactions?” This was a recent question asked to me by a high-level leader in a large organization on the other side of the nation. She wanted to know if we could talk and if I could advise her.

Advise her about this in a coaching session? No. Ask her the right questions in a coaching session? Yes – or at least I’d give it my best shot.

Values mis-match at work? These coaching questions may be of help.

When you discover that the espoused values of the “CEO and company” are different than what you signed on for, and that your values aren’t aligned to them, it’s time for some soul searching and contemplation. Regardless of what values are hanging on the wall in a corporate mission statement, you just know in your gut when there’s a values mis-match.

Some questions to help you discover what to do may include a few of the following:

  1. Are you operating on assumptions about the values that the C-level is embracing by its behaviors? Or have you inquired with “them” to check your perceptions?
  2. Are the corporate values being lived out ethically, legally, or morally wrong? If the answer is yes to any one of these, is it safe for you to continue working in that organization?
  3. Are you able to shelter the people you lead within the organization from the poor values being embraced at the C-level? If so, does this exhaust you to an unhealthy point, or is it a challenge that leaves you engaged and motivated most of the time?
  4. Where is your point where you know it’s time to move on? Is that point related to your physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion? Is there a point where a loss of joy will indicate it’s time to exit?
  5. If the values mis-match is not one that could land you in jail, does it make financial sense for you to jump ship now, or do you need to wait for a more opportune time? Do you need to begin looking for the next career place to step? Or do you need to have your next career move lined up before you leave where you are?
  6. If for a week you mentally “pretend” that you are sticking it out where you are indefinitely, what does that feel like in your gut? During a week of not entertaining the question of leaving, are you spurred on to thinking of creative ways to modify the culture or make it much more than simply tolerable?
  7. And if you take a week and mentally plan on leaving your current company to work in one where there is a strong values match, how do you wake up feeling each day? Does it bring stress or relief – and why?

A great coaching session rarely ends with coachees having gained perfectly clear “answers” to challenges. But if a person leaves the coaching session with the right issues to ponder and consider, he or she will usually discover the right steps of action to take. And those will most often be the right ones because they emerged through marinating thought – and (hopefully!) will resonate with the heart.

Is it time for you to proactively change the culture and espoused values of the company you work in to more positive ones? Or is it time for you to seek a better fit between the values you esteem and those of the organization you work for?

Dr. Heidi Scott, the Leader’s Coach    http://www.LearningPursuits.com

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